September 18, 2013

More Tire Tracks in the Rose Beds: On David Shields and Shane Salerno’s Salinger 5


If this new project, hyped as one of the great literary reveals of our time, cannot help us find Salinger, what can?

September 18, 2013

Speculative Evidence: Ben Urwand’s The Collaboration 1


It is the unholy alliance of Hitler and Mickey that tees up Urwand’s central claim: from 1933 to 1939, the Jewish moguls who ran Hollywood’s studio system “collaborated” with the Nazi regime, censoring and even quashing films that represented the German state in a negative light.

September 13, 2013

Something Stark and Essential: On Alexander Maksik’s A Marker to Measure Drift 0


The writing is clear and economical, and to Maksik’s credit it never competes with Jacqueline’s ongoing plight. Add a plot so tightly focused on her immediate hardships and the unbreakable link to her mother, whose voice comes to her in memory with advice both wanted and unwanted, and Maksik seems to have set up an absolute gauntlet for himself.

September 11, 2013

Childlike Simplicity: On J.M. Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus 4


David is the vehicle for Coetzee’s effort to explore belief’s ability to conquer doubt — more particularly, the doubt of Simón — and of the way fantasies can coax even doubt itself into becoming a form of trust, of faith, of belief.

September 10, 2013

The Train in the Night: A Story of Music and Loss by Nick Coleman 0


Nick Coleman, a long-time music journalist in the UK, was made aware of his body’s terrible capriciousness when one of his ears stopped working. It left a dull blankness for a while, and then a building cacophony of tinnitus in both ears so severe that balance and concentration became almost impossible. Burdened with what could have been a ruinous impediment, he reaffirms his love of music.

September 4, 2013

Marisha Pessl’s Stirring Second Act 19


Marisha Pessl’s writing has done a lot of growing up in the seven years since Special Topics in Calamity Physics was published. Her new novel is bigger, more ambitious, and far more satisfying than her splashy debut.

August 30, 2013

Using Every Part of the Whale: On Peter Orner’s Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge 0


What follows are love affairs in hotel rooms, quiet suicides in basements, and monologues about being known for wearing goofy hats. What follows are stories that don’t begin and end in the same place, at least not emotionally. There are whole stories in what isn’t said.

August 29, 2013

Truth and Denial: On Choire Sicha’s Very Recent History 0


To portray gay life in the city as Sicha has done — in a manner that’s both realistic and insightful — would be a noteworthy accomplishment in any era, but must be considered particularly remarkable in today’s publishing climate, in which major publishing houses offer readers more gay characters written by straight authors than gay ones. It’s a beautifully written and carefully documented book about a group of people that, to our society’s collective detriment, continues to be largely ignored, dismissed, and stereotyped.

August 23, 2013

The Walls Come Tumbling Down: On Amy Grace Loyd’s The Affairs of Others 3


This writer gives good sex. Celia experiences sex — when she engages in or overhears it — much like she experiences her city, as both threat and connection, distance and intimacy.

August 20, 2013

The Grief Memoir: On Karen Green’s Bough Down 7


That Green’s text, like her life, is marked by an awareness of suffering — loss, grief, psychic alienation — makes Bough Down, as excruciating as it is, deeply satisfying.